Brunch is my favorite meal of the week. Whether post-church or pre-football, I love long, lingering Sunday repasts surrounded by friends. Egg-white omelets, pancakes, avocado toast, biscuits & gravy, salads, burgers, sweet, savory—anything goes at brunch. And oh, the drinks! Brunch is the only meal where multiple beverages are not only permitted, but encouraged. I am rarely satisfied unless I have a Bloody Mary AND a coffee AND a water AND a diet Coke.
Chicago is good at brunch. This city boasts every kind of cozy nook, giant buffet, bustling diner and television-riddled sports bar with breakfast-lunch offerings. The glut of options leads to the paralyzing problem of too many choices. My criteria for a brunch spot are threefold: 1. Easy, convenient location; 2. Classic menu with some unique options; and 3. Drink special. Francesca’s On Chestnut fits the bill for all three.
Francesca’s On Chestnut (200 E. Chestnut) is part of the Chicago stalwart Francesca’s Restaurant Group family, which has been around since 1992. FRG owns and operates 18 Francesca’s Restaurants, 4 Davanti Enotecas, Disotto, Fat Rosie’s Taco & Tequila Bar, and Hillgrove Tap. This location is just off of Michigan Avenue, next to Water Tower Place and the Museum of Contemporary Art. Easily accessible by public transportation, this spot is perfect for a break from shopping the Magnificent Mile or meal before seeing a show at the Broadway Playhouse.
Francesca’s On Chestnut is a Northern Italian restaurant specializing in the cuisine of Rome and the surrounding areas of Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio. They have a solid brunch menu, featuring both savory and sweet options for very reasonable prices given the Gold Coast neighborhood. Here are some of the items that we sampled:
- Arancini Benedict: crispy risotto, prosciutto, poached egg, hollandaise and house potato. This was the MVP. It is a unique spin on a classic dish done perfectly.
- Tomato-braised pork hash: braised pork shoulder, carrots, celery, onions, potatoes and two eggs. A hearty dish, perfect for falling temperatures.
- Peasant-style breakfast: two eggs, bacon, house potatoes, toast. A simple dish done well cannot be beat. My dining companion could not stop raving about the potatoes.
- Salmon Affumicato: smoked salmon, red onion, capers, argula, and creamy goat cheese, served open faced on toasted rye; served with double beer battered French fries. This was a modern take on a traditional bagel and lox. The fries were exactly right.
- Ravioli al Spinaci: spinach-filled ravioli with a four-cheese sauce and a touch of tomato sauce.
- Blueberry ricotta pancakes: blueberry lemon compote. The pancakes were beautifully Instagrammable.
- French toast: thick-cut brioche with seasonal fruit. When this came out, my friend saw that it was undercooked and sent it back. The second try was the best French toast I’ve ever eaten.
What you need to know about the drink situation at Francesca’s on Chestnut is this: $15 bottomless mimosas. They also have all of the other brunch drinks: solid Bloody Marys, lovely rosés, a full bar and fun cocktails like Smashing Peaches (Svedka vodka, merlet crème de peche, peach preserves, ginger beer).
Brunch hours at Francesca’s On Chestnut are Saturday and Sunday, 11a – 3p.
Francesca’s On Chestnut, 200 E. Chestnut, 312-482-8800.